Drug discovery is slowly but steadily transforming. A key factor contributing to that is the evolution of computational drug discovery solutions in the past decade that are now an integral part of all stages of research and development. Yet, novel methods and innovations in general come with their own challenges that need to be addressed accordingly. Companies located in the United States of America represent the epicenters of the scientific buzz — they are confronted with glorious research opportunities and their accompanying stumbling blocks.
At BioSolveIT, we are in a constant dialog with our customers to improve our platforms based on pressing, modern needs and research procedures. Therefore, our staff members handling the plethora of requests and keeping close touch to the user base are the best candidates to gain meaningful insights into today’s drug discovery mindset. We have interviewed both our US East- and West coast BioSolveIT client contacts, Daniel ‘Dan’ Comer, Director of Business Development Medicinal Chemistry Solutions, and Justin Holowachuk, Senior Sales Director; they collect current perspectives and gaze into the future of small molecule design.
First things first: Who are you? What’s your role at BioSolveIT?
Dan: I am a veteran Medicinal Chemist from San Diego, CA. I enjoy growing our customer base in the US through networking with new and former colleagues. My ability to understand and discuss medicinal chemistry challenges with customers adds a layer of trust that keeps them engaged. It’s through that level of engagement where my role is fulfilled and our mantra of “Fast, Visual and Easy” is demonstrated.
Justin: My name is Justin Holowachuk and I’m from Boston, representing BioSolveIT mainly on the East Coast. I’ve been with the BioSolveIT for over three years, and I’d describe my role as a consultative one, making sure scientists have the tools they need to work efficiently.
The United States are certainly among the top players in modern drug discovery. What key factors contribute to that?
Dan: There are several reasons why US is a top player: 1. Drug Discovery requires large amounts of capital to initiate and even more to go to production. The US stock market and economy provides that level of economic support. 2. The US immigration policy allows top scientists to migrate to the States to be educated and work in the US, allowing them to reach potentials that are rarely possible to obtain in their native countries. 3. The US has some of the world’s top scientific universities that produce top scientists. 4. The US has several Biotech and Pharmaceutical hub cities where living conditions are ideal and jobs are plentiful.
Justin: There are several factors that contribute to the United States being a drug discovery powerhouse: heavy investment in R&D, strong IP laws, top-tier institutions producing highly skilled people, a positive regulatory environment, and likely many more. Specific institutions that come to my mind in New England are MIT, Harvard, Broad, Brown, Sloan Kettering, Dana-Farber, and the list goes on…
What areas in the United States do you think are the ‘hot spots’ for drug discovery?
Dan: There are several of those. On the West Coast I would say San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Los Angeles. On the East Coast Boston, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina come to my mind.
Justin: Of course I am biased, but Boston is easily at the top of the list. Other notable locations would be NYC, The Research Triangle, San Francisco, and San Diego.
Who profits most from our software? Smaller or larger companies?
Dan: Both. Smaller companies who utilize the power of our software will become larger companies, and the larger companies who use our software will become more profitable.
Justin: This feels like a trick question. I’ll try to answer in the least salesperson way possible (laughs). I know my customers, they’re both large and small companies. I’ve seen users license our whole suite of products and use only our tools. I’ve seen other users implement only some of our tools. I’ve even seen users implement only a single specific algorithm that we offer. I genuinely believe all of our users profit equally because there’s always a use-case for the tools we offer.
How do you think BioSolveIT handles computational drug discovery differently than other companies?
Dan: BiosolveIT platforms makes it easy for any scientist to do computational chemistry on their own laptop computer. Canned one-click applications, clean graphical user interfaces, modular organization, cutting edge algorithms backed with published scientific methodology are just a few reasons why. BioSolveIT’s software tools use methods that are most trusted by scientists and uses only a fraction of the computing power that competitors’ tools use. We call it Green Computing — our algorithms produce meaningful and visualized results in seconds (or much less) where others need hours or days. This gives our tools an extra smiley on hardware and electricity bills.
Justin: Our whole mantra is Fast, Visual, and Easy. From the other tools on the market, I’ve seen highly complex tools with steep learning curves that puts all of the pressure on the user. Don’t get me wrong — there’s a need for compute-heavy “expert-only” tools… but you don’t always need to spin up an AWS cluster to perform simple computations. We handle computational drug discovery by being able to produce data very very quickly and efficiently — so that you might not even need that AWS cluster, but it certainly could help.
What’s your favorite feature in the software?
Dan: It is a 3-way tier: First, the inclusion of synthetic knowledge with computational analysis. Second, the ability to run the program and searches fully on your laptop without the need for continuous internet connection. And third, the re-thinking of how to search ultra-large chemical spaces which not only makes it possible but makes it fast, visual and easy
Justin: OK — well my favorite feature from a computational standpoint is within infiniSee: being able to browse trillions of compounds in seconds on my laptop (16GB of RAM, a stock GPU, and standard 12 core CPU). BioSolveIT’s algorithms have brought compound storage and compound searching to a new level. From a visual standpoint, my favorite feature is within SeeSAR: the visualization of individual atom contributions towards the overall affinity is captured perfectly without having to deep-dive into anything technical. Simple spheres surround the atoms, with varying color and size but with a strong impact on how users understand their compound.
Where do you think BioSolveIT will have a huge impact on in the next years?
Dan: All areas of science in academia and industry and not just in drug discovery. This will come from the widespread use by laboratory scientists due to its shallow learning curve, ability to run on common computers, and its output of high quality data that has value that those practicing scientists can use the day they get it.
Justin: I think it’ll be in two places. Firstly, it’ll be within the compounds storage and searching space. I went over that in the previous answer so I won’t dive into that much. Secondly, it’ll be within the docking space. I didn’t touch on it much so far, but the interplay between our compound storage, searching, and docking have yet to be fully realized in the commercial realm. We do offer a service that combines most of our clever algorithms on potential targets, but when it’s an out-of-the-box solution I believe it’ll be more accessible and change the way many people think about drug discovery.
In case you are interested to know if and how BioSolveIT may help your company reach the next level of drug discovery and overcome obstacles, reach out to us via the contact form. Dan, Justin, and the other BioSolvers are excited to help and answer your questions.